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Mechineni Kishan Rao v. Commissioner of Police, Hyderabad & Another

Mechineni Kishan Rao
Commissioner of Police, Hyderabad & Another

(High Court Of Telangana)

Writ Petition No. 10466 Of 2002 | 13-06-2002

V.V.S. Rao, J.

1. The petitioner is the Convener of Telangana Samnvaya Committee (hereinafter called 'Samithi' for brevity). It was formed as a co-ordinating body of three constituent organisations viz., (i) Telangana Sadhana Samithi Headed by Sri A. Narendra, who is a Hon'ble Member of Loksabha; (ii) Telangana Aikya Vedika headed by Dr. K. Jaya Shankar, former Vice- Chancellor of Kakatiya University and Sri Keshav Rao Jadhav, retired Reader in English; and (iii) Telangana Jana Sabha. The Samithi desired to hold a public meeting "Telangana Polikeka" on 14-6-2002. Therefore, Sri A. Narendra, Hon'ble Member of Parliament, who is also the President of Telangana Sadhana Samithi, addressed a letter to the 1st respondent herein requesting permission to take out a procession from 1.00 p.m. from Indira park to Nizam college and to hold a public meeting at Nizam College grounds. Even by 12-6-2002, when no order was passed by the 1st respondent, the Convenor of the Samithi has filed the present Writ Petition. Be it noted that the Telangana Sadhana and the Telangana Aikya Vedika are espousing a cause for separate Telangana State for some time. They intend to conduct a really procession and also a public meeting on 14-6-2002 in support of that cause. Indeed, this Court was moved yesterday at 10.30 p.m. with a request to take up this case at 2.15 p.m. by way of a special motion (Lunch Motion), but so as to enable the learned Government Pleader for Home to get instructions, permission for special motion was refused and the matter was directed to come in the usual course.

2. Today, when the matter is called, for preliminary hearing and admission, the learned Government Pleader for Home Sri M. Rama Rao has placed before this Court a memo bearing No. L and O/M4/2902/2002 dated 12-6-2002 passed by the 1st respondent, rejecting the permission for taking out a procession and for conducting public meeting at Nizam college grounds. The Writ Petition itself was filed seeking a writ of mandamus declaring the action of the 1st respondent in not giving permission to the rally and public meeting sought by the Samithi as arbitrary and unconstitutional and for a further direction to the Officers to forthwith accord permission. As the public meeting is scheduled at 5.00 p.m. on 14-6-2002, the matter was heard finally at the threshold. Learned Government Pleader also produced the file the office of the 1st respondent. He has also produced an unclassified report of the Inspector General of Police (Intelligence), Government of Andhra Pradesh, which was communicated by the 2nd respondent by a secret endorsement dated 12-6-2002 to the 1st respondent. I have perused the file as well as the report which was communicated by the 2nd respondent to the 1st respondent.

3. Learned senior counsel for the petitioner Sri K. G. Kannabhiram made a two-fold submission. First, he would submit that the right to assemble and conduct public meeting is integral to the fundamental right to speech under Articles 19(1)(a) and 19(1)(b) of the Constitution and, therefore, the same cannot be abridged or whittle down by the State, Secondly, he would contend that the fundamental rights under Articles 19(1)(a) and 19(1)(b) of the Constitution can be subjected to restrictions under Articles 19(2) and Article 19(3) of the constitution having regard inter alia to peace and public order. He would further urge that as interpreted by the Supreme Court, the power to regulate the exercise of fundamental right to speech and assemble must always be in aid of the fulfilment of the fundamental rights and not prohibiting the exercise of the fundamental right.

4. Sri M. Rama Rao, learned Government Pleader for the department of Home, would vehemently support the order passed by the 1st respondent on 12-6-2002 rejecting permission for taking out a procession as well as for the public meeting. It is his submission that the intelligence reports and other reports received by the 1st and 2nd respondents would indicate that there is likelihood of infiltration of the procession as well a public meeting by people belonging to certain organisations against whom there is a ban. Therefore, he would submit that allowing the petitioner and its associates to proceed to take out rally and conduct public meeting would subvert public interest.

5. The short question that would arise for consideration is whether in the facts and circumstances of this case, the 1st respondent, in law, was justified to reject permission for taking out procession and conducting public meeting?

6. In India, there is a long established constitutional practice, especially in the law of enforcement of fundamental rights, that the State must aid in the fulfilment of fundamental rights. If there is a conflict between a statute law and the fundamental rights in Part III of the Constitution, the former must give way to the latter. indeed, any State action which is in contravention of Part-III rights is declared void by the Constitution itself. However, there is also long tradition of constitutional practice in this country that the State, having regard to sovereignty, integrity of country, peace, law and order, public interest, can always regulate, by law, the exercise of fundamental rights. This is especially so in so far as the seven freedoms (now six freedoms) declared by Article 19 of the Constitution of India are concerned. Whether or not the restrictions imposed are reasonable would depend on the facts of each case and except laying down the general principles as to the test to be applied in examining the reasonableness of restrictions, general principles to suit all cases cannot be laid down. It is well settled that the right to freedom of speech under Article 19(1)(a) includes the right to freedom of press, right to express opinions and right to conduct public meetings. The right to assemble under Article 19(1)(b) includes the right to assemble peaceably and without arms. It is also well settled that the law enforcement agencies of the State can always regulate exercise of the right to freedom of speech as well as right to assemble and conduct public meetings. A reference may be made to a judgment of the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in Himmat Lal K. Shah v. Commissioner of Police, Ahmedabad, AIR 1973 Supreme Court 87 as well as a recent judgment of this Court in Madiga Reservation Porata Samithi v. Commissioner of Police, Hyderabad, (1999) 3 Andh LT 146 (hereinafter referred as 'M.R.P. Case' for brevity).

7. In Himmat Lal's case (supra), the Commissioner of Police, Ahmedabad rejected permission to hold a public meeting on a public street in connection with All India Students Strike. The Supreme Court considered the scope of the power of the Police Commissioner to regulate the holding of a public meeting on streets and public places. It was held that the State cannot, by law, abridge or take away the right of assembly or prohibit assembly on every public street or public place. However, it is always permissible for the State to make regulations in aid of the right to assembly of each citizen and also impose reasonable restrictions in the interest of public order . It is apt to quote from the judgment itself (Para 32 of AIR) :

"This takes us to points (2) and (3) mentioned above. It is not surprising that the Constitution makers conferred a fundamental right on all citizens 'to assemble peaceably and without arms'. Prior to the coming into force of the Constitution the right to assemble could have been abridged or taken away by law, now that cannot be done except by imposing reasonable restrictions within Article 19(3). But, it is urged that the right to assemble does not mean that that right can be exercised at any and every place. This Court held in Railway Board v. Niranjan Singh, (1969) 3 SCR 548 at P. 554 : AIR 1969 Supreme Court 966) that there is no fundamental right for any one to hold meetings in Government premises. It was observed:

"The fact that the citizens of this country have freedom of speech, freedom to assemble peaceably and freedom to form associations or unions does not mean that they can exercise those freedoms in whatever place they please."

This is true but nevertheless the State cannot by law abridge or take away the right of assembly by prohibiting assembly on every public street or public place. The State can only make regulations in aid of the right of assembly of each citizen and can only impose reasonable restrictions in the interest of public order."

(Emphasis supplied)

8. In the M.R.P. case (supra), the Commissioner of Police refused permission for holding public meeting by the petitioner. My learned brother Justice Chelameswar, after referring to Himmat Lal's case AIR 1973 Supreme Court 87 and also referring to the relevant provisions of Hyderbad City Police Act, 1348 Fasli ('the Act' for brevity) and also considering the various submissions made by the learned Advocate General appearing for the State, allowed the Writ Petition observing as under :

"As a matter of fact such processions took place earlier and the State permitted such processions. The respondent could successfully supervise and regulate such processions and meetings without there being any disturbance to the Public order. It is not open to the respondent to now say that the congregation of about 3 lakhs of people now would disturb the peace and public order. The strength of the congregation in the contextual facts would become irrelevant. Then there should be some other material to enable the respondent to come to the conclusion that permitting the congregation in question would result in the breach of peace and public order. No such material is brought to the notice of the Court. The possibility of there being a large scale disturbance of traffic as pointed out by the learned Advocate General cannot be equated with the disturbance of peace and public order. At any rate such a thing happens whenever such large congregations are permitted and it is not the case of the respondent that no such congregation was ever permitted earlier or would not be permitting in future".

(Emphasis supplied)

9. A reference may also be made to a recent judgment of the Supreme Court in Baldev Singh Gandhi v. State of Punjab (2002) 3 SCC 667. In that case, an elected municipal councillor was removed from the Municipal Council for certain misconduct. It was alleged that the elected municipal councillor by criticising the house tax assessment list resolved by the Municipal Council committed misconduct and, therefore, liable for removal in accordance with Section 16(1)(e) of the Punjab Municipalities Act, 1911. The Supreme Court did not agree with the submission that an elected representative. viz., the Municipal Councillor, cannot criticise the decision of the Municipal Council. The Supreme Court quoted Sir Alfred Denning, L.J. from his Hamlyn Lecture on "Freedom under the Law", which is as under :

"Everyone in the land should be free to think his own thoughts, to have his own opinions and to give voice to them in public or in private, so long as he does not speak ill of his neighbour, and free also to criticise the Government or any party or group of people, so long as he does not incite anyone to violence."

(Emphasis supplied)

The Supreme Court also referred to Douglas, J. in Terminiello v. Chicago (1949) 337 US 1 : 93 Law Ed 1131, as well as the famous observations of Justice Holmes and Justice Brandies in American Communications Assocn. v. Douds (1950) 339 U.S. 382 : 94 Law Ed. 925 to the effect that "greater danger to democracy lies in the suppression of public discussion; that ideas and doctrines thought harmful or dangerous are best fought with words"

10. The Supreme Court while allowing the appeal of the municipal councillor observed as under :

"The rule of law which is obeyed not only by the officers and public servants of the State or local bodies, but by all the citizens and holders of elected offices, is a precondition of a healthy and successful democracy. No responsible person in a democracy could incite the people to disobey the rule of law duly enacted. But situations may arise where responsible persons or those who hold elected offices may feel that it is their duty to criticise the law either promulgated by the State or by the municipal council as illegal, arbitrary or ultra vires and against the public interest and invite the people to come for discussion on the subject. Can such a conduct be attributed as a "misconduct"?"

(Emphasis supplied)

11. In the case on hand. I have seen the intelligence report which was communicated to the 1st respondent by the 2nd respondent. Before a reference is made to this, be it noted that on the application made by Sri A. Narendra, Hon'ble Member of the Parliament on 6-6-2002, the 1st respondent on 11-6-2002 endorsed that there is credible information that the People's War Group cadre would infiltrate into the procession and public meeting and, therefore, the petitioner should be advised to postpone and for the present, permission should not be accorded. Accordingly, a note was put up on 11-6-2002 itself. On 12-6-2002 the 2nd respondent communicated the report of the Inspector General (Intelligence) by a memo where some apprehensions are expressed that people from banned organisations might participate in the rally and public meeting to gain political mileage.

12. The learned Government Pleader for Home placed strong reliance on Section 22 of the Act and submits that the order of rejection is justified. After perusing Section 22(1) of the Act, it becomes clear that the Police Commissioner or the Police Officer, not below the rank of Inspector, may, inter alia pass orders either orally or in writing in regard to the mode of passing, conduct and behaviour or acts of the processions or assemblies, prescribe the routes by which they should pass and the time at which such processions may or may not pass, prevent obstruction on the occasions of processions and assemblies, maintain order in the streets, public places etc. Sub-section (3) of Section 22 empowers the Commissioner of City Police, in writing prohibit every kind of procession or assembly for such time as may appear to him to be necessary and proper for observation of peace and public safety. A plain reading of sub-section (3) would show that sub-section (3) of Section 22 empowers the Commissioner to pass a general order prohibiting every kind of assembly or procession for observation of peace and public safety. This has no application to the facts of this case. Indeed, the order also does not mention that it is a general order prohibiting all assemblies. The order passed by the Commissioner is an order rejecting permission to the petitioner to take out procession and conduct meeting which can only be an order under sub-section (1) of Section 22. Be it also noted that under sub-section (1) of Section 22 the Commissioner can also regulate music or singing, beating of drums, tom-toms, bands etc. on public streets, having regard to public peace. Learned Government Pleader also relied on the judgment of the Supreme Court in Himmat Lal's case (supra) in support of his contention that in a given case, the Police Commissioner can even prohibit processions and public meetings.

13. After going through the judgment of the Supreme Court, especially the ratio as found at paragraph 33 thereof, it must be taken as well settled that the power of the State to regulate the exercise of right of assembly at public places must be exercised to aid the enjoyment of right of assembly subject to condition that there can be reasonable restrictions in public interest. For example, no political party or individual can seek permission to hold a public meeting in the mid night or early hours so as to disturb the public tranquillity and peace. Likewise, no political party or individual can be permitted to take out procession with dangerous weapons or arms as was held by the Supreme Court in Acharya Jagdishwara-anand Avadhuta v. Commissioner of Police, Calcutta, AIR 1984 Supreme Court 51. Therefore, I am not able to agree with the learned counsel for the State.

14. The State apprehends that if the public meeting is allowed by the organisations espousing the cause of a separate Telangana including the organisation known as Telangana Jana Sabha, it would cause disturbance to public peace. The State also apprehends that Telangana Sadhana Samithi and Telangana Aikya Vedika are facade for certain banned organisations, which are trying to gain some political mileage. I am afraid, I cannot agree with the rationale, and draw such inferences. I, however, hasten to add, as observed by my learned brother Justice Chelameswar, the opinion or the inference drawn by the respondents is entitled for utmost weight but the Court of judicial review is entitled to examine the reasons for the conclusions of respondents. Be it noted that the respondents cannot arrive at a decision on a mere subjective satisfaction on grounds which, as observed by my brother Justice Chelameswar, no public authority in the normal course would come to such conclusion. If the respondents apprehend that some organisations which are facing ban may infiltrate into the procession, the respondents could as well have informed the organisers - when especially it is admitted that the rally and meeting are organised by Telangana Sadhana Samithi and Telangana Aikya Vedika, not to allow such other organisations, whose participation would not be congenial to the public interest.

15. As rightly contended by the learned senior counsel Sri K. G. Kannabhiram, when the permission was sought for taking out procession from 1.00 p.m. to 5.00 p.m. and thereafter for conducting public meeting the order of rejection proceeds on the ground that the permission was sought to take out procession and conduct public meeting between 1.00 p.m. and 5.00 p.m. Though this aspect of the matter may not have any bearing, that goes to show that the respondents are more apprehensive of the procession that is intended to be taken out by the petitioner. In a matter of this nature, the respondents ought to have acted with utmost promptitude and passed orders immediately instead of keeping the matter till the fag end.

16. After having perused the file placed before me as well as the confidential report and after hearing the learned counsel for the petitioner as well as the learned Government Pleader. I am of the considered opinion that there is no justification for rejecting permission to hold public meeting. However, having regard to the very nature of Samithi, which is formed by different organisations, the order rejecting permission to take out procession is justified. The learned senior counsel does not dispute this.

17. The Writ Petition, for the above reasons, is disposed of with the following directions:

(i) The petitioner shall not be entitled to take out rally from Indira park to Nizams grounds on 14-6-2002 or from any other place in Hyderbad as the same is likely to cause inconvenience to the public. The learned senior counsel concedes to that extent :

(ii) The petitioner shall be entitled to hold a public meeting at Nizam College grounds as per their pamphlet from 6.00 p.m. (not 5.00 p.m.) on 14-6-2002 :

(iii) It shall be open to the respondents to make all necessary arrangements and take all preventive and protective measures for the smooth conduct of the meeting and also preventing any untoward incidents before, during and after the meeting; and

(iv) The leaders of Telangana Sadhana Samithi, Telangana Aikya Vedika and Telangana Samanvya Committee will keep in mind the observations made by the Supreme Court in Baldev Singh's case AIR 2002 Supreme Court 1126, which are extracted above, in conducting the public meeting.

Order accordingly.

Advocates List

For the Petitioner K.G. Kannabhiram for K. Balagopal. For the RespondentsGovt. Pleader for Home.

For Petitioner
  • Shekhar Naphade
  • Mahesh Agrawal
  • Tarun Dua
For Respondent
  • S. Vani
  • B. Sunita Rao
  • Sushil Kumar Pathak

Bench List


Eq Citation

2002 (2) ALD (CRI) 313

2002 (4) ALD 816

AIR 2002 AP 457